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Comprised of individual artists Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers, the indie supergroup known as boygenius originally came together in 2018 to release their aptly titled debut album, “boygenius.” Now, after a four year break, the group is back with a second album, “the record,” which is set to be released on March 31.
Boygenius has released four singles off of the album so far, the latest being “Not Strong Enough” on March 1. Though fans may view four singles — which make up a third of the album— as too much to release in advance of the album, “Not Strong Enough” is arguably deserving of this special status, as it greatly differentiates itself from the previous three releases in lyrics, tone, and form.
Notably, “Not Strong Enough” features an intricate layering of vocals, in which the artists offer both solos and harmonies. The song opens with a verse sung by Bridgers’s gentle voice and transitions to a two-part harmony with Baker for the chorus; Baker’s strong vocals are then featured in the next verse. The bridge begins with just Dacus’s calm, low voice, which lends itself nicely to a gradual harmony. The unique vocals of all three artists come together with the strong use of the guitar in the background, as it begins and ends the song and supports the addition of more intricate instrumentals throughout.
The most pivotal component of “Not Strong Enough,” however, is its lyrics. In contrast to the previous three releases from “the record,” the lyrics center on internal dialogue and questioning. Complex, vivid imagery allows listeners to absorb the emotions behind the lyrics, with lines such as “black hole opened in the kitchen” and “stop staring at the ceiling fan” conveying a picture of deep anguish and self-hatred indescribable by adjectives alone. The repetition of the line “I don’t know why I am” contributes to these feelings of yearning, shame, and extreme self-consciousness. The bridge consists simply of the line “always an angel, never a god” repeated twelve times, conveying a feeling of being lost, weak, and — quite literally — not strong enough.
“Not Strong Enough” also sets itself apart from the previous releases with its accompanying music video. Self-shot by the artists, the video presents itself as a home movie of a summer road trip, in which Dacus, Baker, and Bridgers visit everyday sites such as arcades, museums, and roller coasters. The juxtaposition between these seemingly carelessly joyful scenes and the dark, self-searching lyrics is profound, conveying the idea that not all struggles are visible. Despite this contrast, however, the video contains several subtle yet purposeful artistic choices. For example, the three artists comically pose with ancient busts in a museum, giving a visual depiction of the “god complex” theme conveyed in the lyrics. Similarly, the video ends with them playing with colorful smoke bombs in the dark, aptly complementing the lyric “I think I’m having revelations.”
Overall, the dynamic yet contrasting vocals of Dacus, Baker, and Bridgers, along with the complex lyrics and intricate music video create a stunning masterpiece that manages to turn the most gruesome mental breakdown into a work of art, yet still avoids the romanticization of these struggles.
Fans can look forward to the release of the full album later this month, which will be followed by their Coachella appearance in April and their international summer tour.
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